As a historical ecologist and ethnoecologist, she currently conducts community-based research and explores the intersection of resource extraction and environmental management.

Introducing Dr. Chelsey Geralda Armstrong!

March 02, 2021

From forest garden ecosystems, to the cultural and phytogeography of native crabapples, to the environmental impacts of colonialism, Chelsey Geralda Armstrong is investigating how human-landscape interactions relate from the past to the present.

As a historical ecologist and ethnoecologist, she currently conducts community-based research in northern British Columbia homelands exploring current and historical impacts of resource extraction and contemplates various angles of environmental management.

“I’m interested in the historical ecology of the Northwest Coast and in exploring the co-creation of people and the inhabited landscape,” says Armstrong. “To study these relationships, I consider methodological approaches from ethnoecology, functional botany, archaeology, ecology, and molecular biology.”

Armstrong is drawn to research questions that interrogate the role of colonialism and white supremacy in environmental management research and policy, exploring its deep historical roots and lasting impacts on plant communities and Indigenous lifeways.

She has published a series of papers on topics such functional ecology and Indigenous forest gardens , the production and traditional management of Corylus cornuta (beaked hazelnut), and the impacts of colonialism on Indigenous stewardship. Her upcoming book, Silm Da’axk (To Revive and Heal Again): Historical Ecology and Ethnobotany in Gitselasu Lahkhyuup, also explores these topics in depth.

“I try to offer research skills that crosscut disciplinary boundaries in order to more fully expose the brutality of the resource development in so-called British Columbia,” says Armstrong. “Ethnoecology is a good intellectual home for this kind of research.”

Drawn to the interdisciplinary scholarship of SFU’s Indigenous Studies, Armstrong is excited to develop her community-based research here. She recently established the Historical and Ecological Research (HER) Lab in Indigenous Studies at SFU, which focuses on integrating team-based scientific research for action-oriented outcomes. She is currently accepting graduate students looking to undertake exploratory outdoor and applied research.

“I think it’s important to equip young scholars with the tools to be thorough and critical,” says Armstrong. “It applies so much to our daily lives that the philosophy can support students no matter which worldly context they go to next.”

Armstrong is currently based out of the settler town of Terrace on Gitselasu (Ts’msyen) lahkhyuup. She makes sure to go outside every day and put together plants for herself or Elders, chop wood, make tea, or go through the archives there.

“[I do] whatever works to keep my eye on the prize,” she says. “So often things like grant writing, Zoom meetings, or editing become tiresome and mundane.

“Being on the land renews a bigger sense of purpose and reminds me how insignificant I am. When I sign into my class, I’m a lot more eager to be real with students, and […] we co-create and learn some pretty amazing things.”